Category Archives: Recipes

Tidbits

DSC_5270 (1600x1060)The hummers finally showed up in some force.  There are enough of them around I have to keep an eye on the feeders lest they run dry.20150415_175837 (1600x1060)I’m always losing those info tabs that ID the plant so I hit upon the idea to take a picture of each one with my cell phone.  Might not be foolproof but it can’t hurt.DSC_5266 (1600x1060)Bea is fond of turning our pots into kitteh beds.  I have two small basil plants in this one and she managed not to crush either one.  Yay!DSC_0317 (1600x1060)I had Italian sausage leftover from the last pizza so I combined that with some ground beef in a meatloaf the other day.  Worked out pretty well!  This was an ad hoc recipe:  Milk, an egg, bread crumbs, chopped parsley, chopped onion, garlic, and salt/pepper – bake in a 325 oven for about an hour in a bread loaf pan.  The dressing is ketchup and Sweet Baby Ray’s.DSC_0321 (1600x1060)The best reason to make meatloaf is the prospect of using the leftovers in a sammich.  Mmm…DSC02274 (1600x1200)Thread needs more kitteh!  This is Sweet Pea, a 5 month old kitteh girl.DSC02278 (1600x1200)That was hard work!  Nap time…DSC_0313 (1600x1060)I’ve been perfecting my braising method for these baby back ribs.  I do these in a 300 degree oven in a covered foil pan, after applying a dry rub, for about 3 hours or so.  A cup of beef broth helps to keep them moist.  During the last 20 minutes I brush them with a BBQ sauce, crank up the heat, and leave them uncovered to set the glaze.  Still working on the rub recipe but is has ground coriander, black pepper, kosher salt, garlic and onion powders, brown sugar, and a few other things that look good at the time.

Friday Recipe Exchange: Fun with Gadgets

DSC_7651 (1600x1060)

When I was sick last month, I watched a lot of cooking shows while resting on the couch. One that caught my imagination was different things that can be made in a waffle iron. That spurred the idea for tonight’s recipe exchange. Unexpected recipes for various cooking appliances.

First up, Biscuit Breakfast Sandwiches made in the waffle iron. Not as elegant as JeffreyW’s delicious looking waffle, bacon and egg sandwich pictured above, but it’s a quick- less than 10-minute – tasty breakfast. Click here for recipe and directions.

One of the best ideas I’ve heard in a long time is Grilling Pizza outside on the grill. Recipes and instruction here.

And finally, make a spinach lasagna in the slow-cooker that tastes like it was oven-baked, with this recipe for Slow-cooker Lasagna here.

What’s on your plate this weekend? Anyone else have unusual recipes for kitchen gadgets? Anyone harvesting from their garden yet? It’s just about time for my favorites here, peas and new potatoes, along with lettuce, spinach and asparagus.

Tonight’s featured recipe solved my biggest issue with hash browns, how to make them easy, quick and crisp. The waffle iron was the unexpected answer.

Cooking the hashbrowns

It’s so easy.  The best part is, there is no need to wring the water from the shredded potatoes, my least favorite step of making hash browns. It’s messy, but without that, skillet fried hash browns never crisp up properly, even with my cast iron press.

The waffle iron to the rescue. Mine is 7 inches across and enough for one potato, but it’s so fast, it was easy to make enough for everyone. I just put the finished ones in the oven to stay warm.

I shredded the potato and lightly patted the shreds with a paper towel, I mixed in a little olive oil, salt, pepper, shredded onion and garlic powder. I brushed oil on both plates and pre-heated the iron, mine has temp settings, so I put it on the highest setting. I spread the shredded potato thinly over the iron, closed the lid tight and let cook for 2 minutes, checked on them, then removed when they were crisp enough. Over the four potatoes I made, the longest time was 4:30 minutes, shortest time was a little less than 3 minutes.

Waffle hashbrowns

It was so easy and the cleanup  was basically wiping out the waffle iron with a paper towel. The next time I do it, I think I’ll add some shredded green or red pepper. It’s definitely a good way to put my waffle iron to use.

That’s it for this week. No Bixby update, although he learned how to use a drinking fountain yesterday. Pretty damn cute. I’ll try to get video for next week. Hope you have a good weekend – TaMara

 

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Fun with Food: Slow-cooker Spinach Lasagna

Slow-Cooker Lasagna 2

This week I’m having fun with unusual recipes in unusual gadgets. Here’s one from December 2012:

This is a great take on spinach lasagna, using a slow-cooker. This entire dish completely surprised me. I was at work, one day, in our morning meeting – which was actually an excuse for the guys to wow me with their cooking ideas – when Vern told me about the slow-cooker lasagna he’d made the night before. I was skeptical. Lasagna in a slow-cooker sounded like it would have the consistency of canned ravioli. But he insisted it was really good. So I set out to see for myself. I have to say, he wasn’t wrong. It had a great flavor, the texture was very similar to having cooked it in an oven and the top was nicely browned and the cheese perfectly gooey. The only caveat is that it cooks in about 4 hours, so you can’t put it together in the morning and have it ready when you get home at the end of the work day. It would be burned to a crisp, even on low.

So, here is tonight’s featured recipe, my version of slow-cooker lasagna:

Slow-Cooker Spinach Lasagna

  • 1 lb lean ground beef (opt, you can skip to keep this vegetarian)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 carrot shredded (this cuts the acidity of the sauce, adds a touch of sweetness)
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 28 oz canned tomato sauce
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 tsp of dried basil, crushed
  • 12 ounces ricotta cheese (you can sub in cottage cheese if desired)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, washed and rough chopped
  • 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 12 ounces lasagna noodles, uncooked (I used brown rice pasta to keep it gluten free)

Sauce: Brown ground beef, along with onion, garlic, carrots and green pepper in a saucepan (if you are omitting the beef, sauté vegetables in a tbsp of olive oil). Add tomato sauce, paste and spices. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and let simmer on low while preparing remaining ingredients.

Mix together ricotta cheese and egg, until well combined. Fold in spinach.

In the slow-cooker, spoon a layer of sauce onto the bottom, add a double layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (break to fit) and top with a portion of the ricotta mixture and then a portion of the mozzarella. Add sauce, then a single layer of noodles, ricotta and mozzarella and repeat layers until ingredients are all used up. (Because slow-cookers vary in size, I unfortunately can’t give you precise layering, as I can with the traditional lasagna. You’ll have to eye it. The good news is, it will all cook together and be just fine regardless).

Finish with sauce, mozzarella and then shredded Parmesan.

Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.

 

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Fun With Food: Waffle Iron Breakfast Sandwiches

Breakfast Sandwich

Last month when I was so sick, I spent a lot of time resting on the couch, watching TV. This was on some cooking show, they were making a breakfast sandwich using only a waffle iron. Sounded like fun. It took me a couple of times to get the timing right because it all happens fast. Start to finish it was ten minutes per sandwich. And clean up was a breeze. Paper towel to clean out the waffle iron is all you need.

Biscuits

I started with the biscuits, because I didn’t want the bacon to flavor everything. I first tried refrigerator crescent rolls, but they were hard to work with and way too sweet. My second try was with refrigerator biscuits. I thought they worked about really well. The crew on the show actually reheated store bought bagged croissants. That would work, too. For the biscuit, I used one biscuit that I separated in half to cook. You could use two if you wanted thicker sandwich.

Bacon slices

Next up: bacon. My waffle iron is 7 inches across and easily held two slices of bacon, cut in half. It cooks up fast, so keep an eye on it.

Bacon slices 2b

It was crisped in less than 2 minutes. I then drained off the excess grease and it was time for the eggs and cheese.

Waffle eggs

I had no trouble with it sticking, because the bacon grease kept the waffle iron well oiled. Mine held only one egg. Milk worked better than water for mixing. And my iron has adjustable temperature, so on my second try, I lowered it to the lowest setting and got the egg the way I liked, less brown, more light and fluffy.

The eggs were surprisingly fluffy, no matter what, but milk gave them a bit more loft.  You could easily add green pepper or onions to the mix, maybe even tomatoes. Just watch the amounts because you don’t want the egg to spill out of the sides, then you have a mess.

The key to preparation is to have everything ready to go. Biscuits separated, egg beaten, cheese shredded and bacon cut. Then it is a quick process – biscuit took 2 minutes, bacon took 2 minutes, egg took less than a minute, then I added the cheese and that was another 30 seconds, tops. Assemble and eat. Yum.

 

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Sammich Pr0n – More Burger Than Bun

DSC_0298 (1600x1060)I bought a griddle iron, a thing to weigh down bacon and such like on a griddle to keep it from curling, and found it pretty useful as a burger patty flatten-er.  DSC_0312 (1600x1060)Roll a ball of ground beef and place it between two sheets of parchment paper and bear down on it.  The patty comes out fairly round and about as thin as you want.DSC_0291 (1600x1060)

Pizza Pr0n – Meat Lover’s

DSC_0309 (1600x1060)I could have called it a pork lover’s pizza – it has bacon, pepperoni, prosciutto, ham, and Italian sausage along with provolone, Parmesan, asiago, mozzarella, and Romano.  My dough-fu was weak today, the dough was too wet and sticky to get a good stuff going into the outer rim of the crust.  You can see a few places where it bubbled out.

Hamburger Noodle Bake

DSC_0299 (1600x1060)This is a family favorite.  You can make these as fancy or as plain as you wish, depending on the time you have or just your mood.  I usually make these in a glass casserole but the big cast iron pan caught my eye this morning while I chopped onions.

Brown a pound or so of ground beef and toss in a chopped onion and a couple chopped ribs of celery and sweat the veggies down before spooning out the excess grease.  While that’s working boil about half a pound of pasta per package directions, and start the cheese sauce.  For this use about three tablespoons of flour with a like amount of butter, a dash of nutmeg and a teaspoon of dry mustard.  Cook the roux down for a few minutes without letting it get much color and whisk in three cups of milk or more – these baked pasta dishes end up way drier than you might imagine.  After the white sauce thickens start stirring in your cheese – today it was cheddar and provolone.  Mix everything together in a large bowl and dump into a greased pan and bake at 350, covered, for 30-40 minutes.  Uncover and add more cheese to the top and bake until the top toasts a tad.DSC_0301 (1600x1060)

Friday Recipe Exchange: Revisiting Fun with Ricotta

Yummy Cannoli by JeffreyW

Yummy Cannoli by JeffreyW

Things are not slowing down here. I put a bid in on a cute little Victorian house, only to face 15 other bids this past week. I did not realize house hunting was going to turn into a full-time job that feels like an episode of the Bachelor, where I go home without the rose each week. Between that and raising a rambunctious 10-month old Great Dane, the weeks are slipping by. Speaking of the Beast, I had to clean out the freezer to make room for his frozen apples halves (apples were on sale, so I stocked up) and his giant beef bones (again, on sale, so I stocked up and boiled a good two week supply). Deep in the freezer, behind the pumpkin, cranberries and leftovers, was a pint of ricotta.

Decided I needed to use it up, so I dug into the archives looking for my vegetarian meatball recipe. That became tonight’s featured recipe, and I pulled up the previous recipe exchange where it was featured and said, “hey, that looks good.” In other words, tonight is a repeat. Next week, though, I’m planning on sharing some fun recipes I’ve been playing with this week.

To start tonight, how about homemade ricotta? JeffreyW has made it and if you click here and he’ll take you step by step through the process.

He then puts his homemade ricotta to good use with Stuffed Shells, as pretty to look at as they are delicious. (recipe and photos here)

I have a great alternative to regular gnocchi, a lighter, easier version using ricotta cheese and a fire roasted sauce to make a simple, quick Baked Gnocchi. (recipe here).

A quick Skillet Lasagna (recipe here) is great for weeknights and a breeze to make.

And a yummy dessert from JeffreyW, a beautiful Cannoli recipe, pictured above and found here.

Finally, for the pet lovers, a Bixby update from the pup himself. If you click here, be prepared, he’s a Beast, standing at his full height on his hind legs.

What’s on your menu for the weekend? Anyone else house hunting? Have you started your gardens in earnest yet?

Now on to the featured recipe. These are very simple to make and are delicious. It’s a great vegetarian alternative for your pasta dishes. They’re light and once you get the technique down, you can play with the flavors and customize them to your palate.

Veggie Meatballs

Most of the recipes I looked at used Italian Breadcrumbs. But I really feel these need fresh breadcrumbs, so I’ve included instructions for making your own. I didn’t season mine because I didn’t want them to overpower the delicate flavors of the cheeses. Fresh breadcrumbs absorb flavors and moisture more than packaged ones, so I thought it gave the whole meatball a better, lighter texture. I added a bit of  garlic powder (fresh garlic did not work with this, it was overpowering and a touch bitter), basil, oregano and fennel. The fennel really took it up a notch. My second round of these, I added a bit of red pepper flake.

Spinach and Ricotta Vegetarian Meatballs

  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (instructions below)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese mix
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 tsp fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried basil, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (not salt)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 eggs, beaten

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  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese
  • Olive oil

Breadcrumbs: this took a full 1-lb loaf of day-old Italian or French bread. I bought it from the day-old rack for cheap. I tore it into small pieces, spread out on a baking sheet and dried it in a 200 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. I didn’t want them toasted or seasoned because I thought it would overpower the delicate flavors of these meatballs. Once they were dried, I ran them through the blender. I reserved 1/4 cup for rolling the balls in before cooking.

Meatballs: Mix together ricotta, grated cheeses, spinach and spices. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add the breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup at a time. You want it to come together to form soft balls, but you don’t want it to be dry. Once you can form a soft ball with some structure, you don’t need to add more breadcrumbs.

Scoop up a heaping tablespoon (I used my cookie dough scoop) and roll the mixture into balls.

Mix together 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup grated cheeses in a bowl and roll each meatball in the mixture, coating on all sides.

You can bake or pan fry these. I chose to pan fry, it used a bit of oil, but it gave them a nice flavor. Baking them would be my option if I was doubling the recipe.

To fry: heat olive oil in a skillet on medium and add the meatballs, leaving enough space between them to easily turn them. They are soft, so it’s a delicate process. The good news is, if you really want them round (instead of kind of flattened) you can reshape them after they come out of the pan. Turn them until they are golden brown on all sides.

To bake: place them on a well oiled baking sheet or use parchment paper. Brush them with a bit of oil if desired. Leave space around each one so they brown evenly and bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. You can turn them halfway through if desired.

Serve them with your favorite pasta and sauce. If you need sauce ideas, click here for Garden Fresh Sauce and click here for Awesome Sauce.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend – TaMara

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Tidbits

Wow, six days since the last post!  I am so lazy!  We have been busy in the kind of laid back style that meets our definition of lazy.  We installed a new yard hydrant near the back barn to replace one that wasn’t sited just right and was getting increasingly difficult to open and close. 20150416_130454 (Copy)The old hydrant was in the back, next to the mulch, we are bringing it closer to the front of the barn.  It was wetter than ideal but we managed to get the ditch dug and the hydrant hooked up and tested out.DSC_5243 (Copy) We were tardy getting a hummingbird feeder up although it hasn’t been exactly overrun since we got it going – we saw one the other day.  The “Eskimo” Viburnum is just now hitting its peak with tons of compound white blossoms, reminiscent of Hydrangias.  DSC_0283 (1600x1060)We’ve been working the grill pretty hard.  This sammich is from country style ribs that smoked for a few hours.  They got a dry rub and a taste of a BBQ sauce, then were chopped and reheated in a skillet atop the stove to get a nice little crisp going on the edges.  The potato salad is another batch of the loaded potato salad that has become our fave picnic style side dish.DSC02232 (1600x1200)This is an older female cat, 5 yo, an owner surrender.  Mrs J says she is starting to come around from the trauma of separation.  We have no info on why the previous owner dropped her off, could be any number of legitimate reasons, and it’s good that she wasn’t just turned out on her own.  We see that a lot.
DSC_5244 (Copy)I have a start on the herb garden.  From the bottom:  Basil, chives, parsley and another to feed to the caterpillars, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. DSC_5245 (Copy)In the back are two determinate variety tomatoes, iirc they are “Mountain Fresh”, one has been broken over and may need replacement although there is still a leaf left intact with the rest of the stem.  In the foreground are various peppers:  Sweet, hot, and ornamental.  I have sweet bananas, serranos, cayenne, and a sweet Italian red pepper, “Carmen”, that looks similar to the banana peppers in the little photo.  I started some fernleaf dill but it’s looking puny today.  Katie and Jack are keeping a lookout for squirrels and those geese that have found where Mrs J leaves the corn for the deer.DSC_5246 (Copy)I do the veggies and herbs, Mrs J keeps up the flowers.  She has the biggest job.  Our 2002 ATV started acting up, right in the beginning the season, so we opted for this shiny, new 2014 model.  I told the dealer guy to show me one that is as close to the old one as he had, and he came very close.  He was tickled at the low mileage on the old one – we don’t do trail rides, just haul stuff around the place, run to the mailbox, and visit the neighbors on occasion.DSC_0271 (1600x1060)We’ve been eating sammiches or dropping by the local Chinese buffet.  We hit the buffet yesterday at the perfect time, I think, everything was freshly cooked and waiting for the lunch crowd, which we beat.DSC02241 (1600x1200)I rarely put up a photo of a large dog, Mrs J works inside with kittens and puppies, but she took this one of a stray that a local police officer brought in.  He said he would rather St Francis had it that the folks at the county humane shelter down the road.  Mrs J says they are required by law to post photos of strays, she posted the photo to the shelter’s Facebook page to be shared around, hoping the owner will see it and step up.

Sammich Pr0n

DSC_0244 (1600x1060)Sloppy joes are an old standby.  I usually brown the beef with chopped onions and add whatever comes to hand for a sauce – easiest is adding a favorite BBQ sauce but I rarely stop at that.  Ketchup, a squeeze of mustard, steak sauces, soy sauce – I’ve used all of these either singly or in combination.  A few minutes before serving, lay slices of cheese atop the mixture, cover, and let the cheese melt down.  Scoop a portion out with a broad spatula and slide it off onto a waiting bun.DSC_0259 (1600x1060)Mrs J called for grilled hamburgers now that the Weber is set up on the front patio.  I’m usually a pickle, onion, and mustard guy but I like ketchup on occasion.  This one has a slice of provolone that’s just starting to sag.  In a skillet on the stove top I let the cheese melt right on down but I’m not a huge fan of scraping burnt cheese off of a gas grill.

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